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Nearly 20 experts who work in the healthcare industry gathered together Thursday at a Utah Business roundtable to discuss the trends and challenges facing their industry. A major concern for many of the attendees was related to the Affordable Care Act and how it will impact the healthcare community—especially when it comes to young 20-somethings who aren’t so hot on buying health insurance.
Dave Gessel, vice president of government relations and legal affairs for the Utah Hospital Association and moderator of the discussion, said in order for the exchanges to truly work, the younger population—meaning those in their 20s and 30s—has to engage.
Scott Barlow, CEO of Central Utah Clinic, said he’s skeptical that young people are going to adopt the ACA initially because of how confusing it is.
“You can see that it’s complicated and confusing already. People just simply aren’t embracing it because it’s confusing. Even educated employers and HR managers are confused.”
Jeff Kluge, partner and consultant at GBS Benefits, said people in the 26 to 40 age group have inherent impatience for something that takes a long time to do or figure out.
“We expect anything we have to do on our smart phones to last less than five minutes,” he said. “The feedback I hear is that people don’t like the government telling them what plan to buy. They want the freedom to buy what they want, and the tax penalties aren’t significant enough to have an impact yet. This is going to be a three- or four-year deal before people start engaging.”
Patty Conner, director of the Office of Consumer Health Services for the state of Utah, said the younger population is a difficult one to convince that they need to have health insurance.
“They don’t see the value of it because they haven’t been utilizers of it in the past and all of a sudden everyone is telling them it’s important to get health insurance,” she said. “They would rather have a new iPhone or take a trip rather than pay for insurance they may not use. It’s not something a lot of them want to budget for. That’s why we need to educate them on the why. For them politically, they don’t think this is going to be an ongoing program. They will let it go by and see if it is something they really have to do.”
Brent Bennett, president of Spectra Managament, said the early adopters of the ACA won’t be people who don’t have health issues.
“That’s going to exasperate costs substantially,” he said.
Conner said a big concern is that if younger, healthier people don’t purchase insurance, costs will continue to rise.
“As much as we see the population pull back, we need them to purchase insurance,” she said. “We need them because they’ll primarily go to the emergency room for care. If we don’t get the healthier population, our rates will continue to go up and up, and we won’t ever be able to get them to stabilize again.”
John Langell, executive director of the Center for Medical Innovation at the University of Utah, said in order to get young people involved and more interested in purchasing healthcare, education needs to take place early on—in college or even high school.
The Healthcare Roundtable will appear in the December issue of Utah Business magazine.